Covid-19

Nazareth Academy’s plans to return to campus March 30 were scrapped when Gov. Greg Abbott made the decision for them.

Abbott signed an executive order relating to COVID-19 preparedness and mitigation on Thursday afternoon. The order requires all public and private schools temporarily close for the duration of the executive order.

Nazareth Academy teachers will meet Monday to create learning plans for its students, assistant principal Debbie Michalski said Thursday morning, before the executive order was signed. Now those plans will include distance learning options.

Our Lady of Victory planned to have learning resume March 30 after a two-week long spring break.

“During this extra week, faculty and administration will be carefully planning alternative learning options,” said principal Justin Matias, in a Wednesday letter to parents.

The executive order also restricts dine-in options at restaurants, bars and food courts, but it allows for carry out services.

St. Joseph High School sent out notices updatings its original plan because of Abbott’s orders. In a Monday letter St. Joseph’s president John Gilley postponed school activities through March 29, but he extended that to April 5, according to a Thursday letter.

The private high school will remain closed until March 30 when classes resume online. Teachers will use the additional week off to “fine-tune” their online platform and transition to digital learning.

“All STJ students will begin mandatory distance learning Monday,” Gilley said.

“We ask that students check their school-issued email accounts for further direction on how to continue your very important education.”

Students and teachers will use FACTS Learning Management System for their distance learning method.

The school will loan Chromebooks and iPads to students who need them and device check out will begin next week, according to the letter. Families who do not have access to the internet can access it for free through Altice USA for 60 days for students.

The free internet offer is available to all students in need and not just those who attend St. Joseph High School.

Several Crossroads public schools announced Thursday that their campuses will close, and they will move to a distance learning method. The announcements followed Abbott’s executive order.

Yoakum school district announced its closure through its website and said the district will be closed until April 3 “per the order issued by Governor Greg Abbott.”

District officials will develop distance learning and food distribution methods, but it is unknown when learning will resume.

Yorktown school district told parents it will shutter its campuses until April 5, and at-home learning will begin on March 25, Superintendent Katherine Kuenstler said in a letter to parents.

“What an unprecedented time this has been as we are seeing the rapidly changing circumstances surrounding COVID-19,” she said. “The leadership team at Yorktown ISD is committed to keeping you as informed as possible and to providing continuity of services through this uncertain situation.”

Teachers will use the next week to create online learning and even “lowtech” delivery methods for students in place of face-to-face learning.

Cuero school district also announced, through a Facebook post, it would close beginning March 23. No other details were provided.

Other schools, like Trinity Episcopal School, have been prepared to move online since February when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the virus was heading to the U.S.

“We‘ve been preparing for this for awhile,” said Kristy Nelson, head of school. “We extended our spring break for an additional week and our plan is to move online.”

Nelson said many of the school’s students travel internationally, and she wanted to be prepared to keep families and students safe with the novel coronavirus outbreak across the globe.

“At that time we talked about how to introduce our students to different online learning platforms in case this became an eventuality,” she said. “We tried to be prepared and not panicked.”

Before students left for spring break, textbooks were sent home with them just in case they couldn’t return like what is happening across the country. Nelson said her teachers have a good grasp on how to transition to online and continue serving their students.

“This is uncharted territory for everyone,” Nelson said. “We’re going to take it one step at a time. But I feel really comfortable.”

The school will have a drive-thru set up for families to pick up homework, science experiment materials and devices as needed on Wednesday, Nelson said. There are enough devices to service those in need, so her main concern is on child care.

“This has not just impacted us. It has a ripple effect,” she said. “We know it’s a struggle. It’s a community problem, and we have to solve it as a community.”

Local day cares remain open and have revamped their regulations to limit the spread of COVID-19. The YMCA of the Golden Crescent waived its registration fee, but a weekly fee is still required. The Y is even working to broaden its bandwidth to help those students who have school work to complete, YMCA President William Oliver said.

Nelson said she alerted school parents early on about the possibility of moving online and school officials are finalizing their transition to online.

“I’d rather hardships for a small amount than a devastating effect that lasts a lifetime,” she said. “We all have to do our part.”

Samantha Douty is the education reporter at the Victoria Advocate. She grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from UT-Arlington with a bachelor's in journalism.

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